It's good practice to let potential home buyers know if pets...

It's good practice to let potential home buyers know if pets will be on premises during a showing. Credit: Getty Images/skynesher

Pet ownership can be one of life's great joys. But when it comes time to sell a house, those furry friends can present a few challenges.

While it's not a legal requirement to tell potential buyers about pets in the home, it should still be brought up, especially during open houses, says Jackie Dunphy, a real estate agent with Corcoran in East Hampton. "I alert the buyers if the pet will be on the premises," she says. "Some buyers are afraid of dogs, so we have to ascertain the situation." Or, in the case of cats, she adds, "we might have to close the door so the kitty doesn't run out."

Micki Dion, a pet owner and real estate agent who’s selling her East Hampton home, says she usually holds onto her 14-pound, 5-year-old Cavapoo, Ruby, when interested buyers arrive. "You can tell if people are backing off," she says. "If I see that, I can take her away, and they don't have to think about the dog anymore. You have to have sensitivity about people's fears. Make it as comfortable as you can for the buyer."

Allergies are also a concern. "You don't want someone in your home to feel like they're getting the flu because of their allergies," says Michelle Brice, owner and lead stylist at Luxury Pet Spa & Boutique in New Hyde Park. Brice, who owns a purebred Maltese and three domestic shorthair cats, says cleaning is key. "Wipe down the walls with basic soap and water, and if you have a ceiling fan, make sure it's very clean," she says. "And pay special attention to corners."

Pets can also go somewhere else for a while, for the comfort of both buyers and animals. Dion says that having her dog around makes it harder to show the home. "When people come to the house, all they want to do want to play with Ruby," she says, laughing. Brice suggests that taking pets to day care, or dropping them off with a relative.

For animal lovers, Dunphy says, keeping pets present can be a plus. "A nice, well-behaved pet can make the house feel friendly," she says. "Or maybe the buyers see a fabulous, fenced backyard, and it makes them think about getting a pet."

Tips for pet owners

Control pet smells. "You cannot just have a little candle burning," says Dunphy. "Get a professional cleaner that specializes in eliminating odors."

Air it out. "Keep the air conditioner on and the windows open, and open the doors," says Dunphy. But be careful about escape-artist pets. "There's a lot of risk with open houses," says Brice. "You don't want your cats running away."

Freshen up. "If the house has been trashed, it can make the property look tired," says Dunphy. She suggests redoing scratched up hardwood floors, deep cleaning carpets and drapes, and covering up ripped furniture. "Optics are so important to buyers," she says. "Get a nice throw, and put the toys, beds, and blankies in baskets."

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